Book Review, Books

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

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★★★★

A powerfully emotional book about the love, resilience and surviving through the worst possible circumstances. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a true story of Lale, a Jew, who find himself trapped in a pool of uncertainty.

A true story that tells you all the horrible truths of what happened inside the camps. The unfairness of life and the people trapped inside. The families who tried to stick together with every strength left in their body. The endless hunger and sleepless nights, watching the people you love die in front of you.

I knew what I was getting into when I started reading this book. I knew the subject would be sad, painful, tormenting. All of these emotions passed through me while I was reading. But a few unexpected ones started flowing too – emotions of love; emotions of friendship; caring for one another. And oh God, the emotion of hope for a better tomorrow. Emotions that make you shiver.

While we follow Lale’s story, we get to see him getting dragged in a camp, fighting his way through starvation. He becomes a ”favourite” to the guards, and by favourite I mean – he might get to not work on Sunday sometimes. He makes friends in this unknown place, where you don’t know who to trust. And luck seems to be on his side at all times. He gets noticed by the tattooist, and becomes his apprentice, only to replace him a few days after. The old tattooist – we don’t know what happened to him, but we can only assume the worst.

While he is a tattooist, his job is to tattoo numbers on people’s arms. A soulless task, it might seem. Innocent people, who are about to become numbers. And he gets to be the one to inflict pain on them first. We can feel his struggle. How he tries to be as gentle as he can, given the circumstances. But he knows that in order to survive, he has to fit in. He has to push his way through. With time, he gets closer to the guards, and has a little extra to eat. He always saves his little extra piece of bread to give to his friends and share it among each other. As a lot of young people, he falls in love. And the lady likes him back.

Sometimes I thought to myself – when you are in such a closed space, with nowhere to go, do you really love someone? Or does ”love” simply then mean having a friend in need? With Lale, this was true love. The way he would describe his girl made you blush. The way he cares for her and the things he does for her are loving and impossible. There is a moment when Gita is sick, and can barely survive, but Lale saves her.

The cutest scene in the book

The scene when he will give diamonds and pearls he has been saving to get a chocolate. He gets a little piece only, and he can’t see Gita for weeks. When he finally does – the chocolate has melted, but they don’t care. They haven’t eaten chocolate for years, and this sweet delight makes them happy, at least for a little moment.

But life is not always so bright. He will meet Doctor Mengele, and not only him, but other awful people along the way. Lale will be punished, thrown in a cell, punched until he faints by his very own friend. He will see terrible things happen to his friends, his colleagues, his girlfriend’s friends. And on top of that, he will keep on going.

The Sad Reality

One scene in this book perfectly describes how someone might have felt being in there. A football match. Between prisoners and guards. Where even though the prisoners haven’t eaten for months, they are better players. But they cannot win this match. They can’t humiliate the guards. If they do, they will never get to play football ever again. A terrible humiliation and punishment. But a sad reality. You cannot win this game. Not today. Maybe tomorrow…

A beautiful book for all the wrong reasons. I wish some things never happened. And I hope never to be repeated again. But I cherish books like this one that exist to tell a story, no matter how upsetting it might be.

Prepare to cry, laugh and love. Prepare to be scared, angry and disgusted. But prepare to learn a piece of history, a piece of a time not so far away, where not everything was milk and honey. I recommend this book to all of you. This is definitely one of those ”must-read” books!

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Book Review, Books

The Recreators by Desiree Nordlund

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★★★★

I went into reading this book partially blind. The blurb doesn’t uncover much, and I was excited as to whether I would like it or not. The Recreators is a young-adult novel that happens in Medieval times and features characters who have God-like powers and are able to change a slight minimal portion of the world.

We follow three separate stories throughout this book:

Filia’s story

A princess who has disappeared and comes back years later to claim her throne. A fierce woman who is a Recreator, but chooses to use the powers for her own benefit. In this story we can see how Filia develops as a character, changes while learning new things, makes sacrifices and answers some of the most asked social questions… A powerful story of growing up, and definitely my favourite one of all three.

Vepresila’s story

She is chosen by the Goddess to serve her, but decides to take destiny in her own hands. This girl grew up with her family in a tribe with different moral and cultural values than what we know. Men and women don’t sleep under the same roof, and boys have to pass tests to become men, otherwise, they are stuck and disrespected. When the girl is chosen to go to the Goddess’ temple and serve her, she realises that the system doesn’t work, and tries to beat it. Finding her own destiny can prove to be a bouncy road, but she goes for it.

Simmiolas’s story

He is a Recreator and comes back to fixes a mistake he made in the past. While he travels, he settles with a circle of people, but they fail to believe he has powers and he doesn’t seem able to change their views on how they see nature and the world. Taking a dear friend with him, he is set on a mission to do what is right, before it is too late.

‘’Just because things don’t always go as planned, it doesn’t always mean the outcome will be for the worse.’’

These three stories feature these three different characters, with a lot of characters surrounding them and supporting them. The three stories connect each other at a few points, some sooner, some later. They never fully connect though, which did bother me, as I was expecting a one big ending. The three stories remained separated, which made me think if it would’ve been better to not connect them at all, or create three separate books for them.

‘’But if all places have different ideas about what’s right and wrong, how do we know what really is right and wrong?’’

Despite the story lines and the grammar errors I encountered, this book was truly amazing and I really enjoyed reading it. I loved the concept of the powers, loved the ethical lessons throughout the book, and I absolutely loved watching all of these characters grow in their own kind of way. There were amazing scenes of what is wrong and right, what fear is and how to overcome it, how to keep going despite making mistakes in the past, and a lot of various life lessons worth reading.

I recommend this book if this seems like the genre you might enjoy reading. It was the first book I read by Desiree Nordlund and I can’t wait to read more books written by her.

‘’The best way to cure fear of the unknown is to admit what caused the fear and watch it until it’s no longer something strange.’’

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Book Review, Books

The Devil’s Apprentice – Kenneth B. Andersen

 

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★★★★★

Possibly the best Young-Adult Fantasy I have read this year. Enter and discover Hell and see how it works, meet the Devil and learn why we need evil in order to be good! A fantastic story and great adventures await in Hell. Read this at your own risk!

I was lucky enough to receive the first two books of The Great Devil War Series by the author himself. I haven’t heard about Kenneth B. Andersen before, but after reading the synopsis, I knew I had to have these books – I knew I had to read the whole series. Starting with the Devil’s Apprentice. 

Meet Phillip – he is a good boy. An angel. He helps his mum with the chores, he helps his friends with their homework, he loves and takes care of animals, and he never lies. But one day, he is sent to Hell by mistake, and he has to become the Devil’s Apprentice. The Devil is ill and before he dies he has to make sure to teach Phillip the worst tricks in Hell’s history, and teach him to be evil – but Phillip is simply terrible at being bad and keeps failing all his tests.

With very little time left to teach Phillip everything, Phillip begins to make friends and enemies in this place. And on top of it all – someone might want the Devil’s throne for themselves…

I loved this book so much! The best thing about it is the setting. We enter a world and we get to see Hell through Phillip’s eyes. Everyone has their own place and role, there is a system of how they designate people and where they go – we meet Death and see the process of how he chooses who dies, and how they place people in either Heaven or Hell, depending on the actions people take throughout their lives, and also, how the Devil throws the dice as well.

Phillip is a typical boy, who goes to school, tries to be a good boy wherever he can. I loved Phillip’s character and could easily relate to him. When he gets in an unusual place, he begins to wonder, and discover and explore, and the way the author writes the scenes just keep you engaged in the book and you can’t put it down before you know what happens next.

The world in Hell is full of adventures, different creatures, lots of scenes where we can’t help but wonder what does ‘’EVIL’’ actually mean, and is it really true that we do need a little bit of evil in order to see the good in ourselves and others? Many moral messages are discovered through Phillip’s adventures, and I loved seeing him grow throughout the book. He keeps learning things and he kept growing. Do you really need to be evil to succeed in Hell?  

I am so glad I have read this book, and I can’t wait to read the second book. If you enjoy Young-Adult fantasy, and enjoyed Dante’s Inferno, this book will probably be something you might enjoy. It will make you giggle, make you wonder, and will leave you restless, page after page.

Until next time! x

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Book Review, Books

Romanov – Nadine Brandes [BOOK REVIEW]

Goodreads 

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★★★★

From the author of Fawkes comes a magical take on the story of Anastasia Romanov.

The history books say I died. They don’t know the half of it.

Ever since I read Fawkes, I knew I loved Nadine’s writing, and when Romanov was announced, I couldn’t be happier. As I have spend my childhood and young adult life in the Balkans, whilst travelling across Europe, I have always admired Russia, and always enjoyed reading all the theories about the Romanov family.

As a child I would be told stories and fairy tales, I would watch the Disney adaptation of Anastasia, and as I was growing up, I would read history books and fiction on this very subject. When I got my hands on ‘’Romanov’’, I knew I would be up for an adventure, with lots of expectations, but what I never knew was that I would be blown away of how beautiful this book is!

This book is split into two main parts, before and after the Romanov’s execution, but it is also split into the first being the historical part, and the second being the fictional part. Both parts of the book are quite intense, and very different emotions come up to surface, but they are both very powerful throughout, and fitted together quite well.

In the first part, we are introduced to the Romanov family, and how they are kept as hostages by the Bolsheviks. It would’ve been much better if we had more details on the pre-hostage period, why the revolution began, why the king abducted the throne, who are the Bolsheviks and what they believed in. The book starts in the middle of this whole situation, and whilst I knew the beginning before, I am certain a lot of people wouldn’t have.

The history, as much accurate as it was, also had a personalized feeling that the author wanted to give. I have to admit, a lot of the details, especially around the family were quite accurate. The family did stick together and loved each other, they did have secrets and they did make friends with their captors. Anastasia’s brother did indeed had hemophilia and Rasputin was allegedly helping him. However, the author decided to put her personal feelings into the history as well. The king is presented as a wonderful leader that cares about the people. I understand that we see this story from Anastasia’s point of view, and as his daughter, she is supposed to see her father as the best figure in the world. But I still believe this part should be more objective, if not from Anastasia’s point of view, then at least by the king’s actions and dialogues. The other big element that bothered me was the portrayal of Rasputin. He is shown in this book as a family helper and a kind man, when in fact, he was far from that. In the history books, he is described as a madman, a creepy person, and the king was not happy of him coming in the house. The family’s secrecy and the queen’s silent domination over the king, together with Rasputin’s doings were the start of the revolution, and I believe that it one of the required truths that this books should have included, but didn’t. And that troubled me.

On top of this, is the Russian language used throughout this book. There were a lot of spelling errors, and misinterpretations. And whilst I can understand these words, many people can’t, and translation wasn’t provided in the book. Also, I really found this quote interesting, talking about the Russian culture, and how they don’t show emotions. Just a note – this is most of the time true, people won’t be nice to strangers, but actually, Russian people are quite friendly and emotional as well.

‘’We Russians weren’t required to share any amount of emotion we didn’t want to.’’

Apart from these few things that slightly bothered me, I really enjoyed this book. Anastasia is an amazing character, and through her we can see her love towards her family, her country, and even towards the people that wish her harm. We get to see her love, cry, be hurt, be afraid, forgive, and grow throughout the book, and her journey was magical.

‘’As I lay in the grass next to the spell that could rid me of heart pain, I realized that a part of forgiveness was accepting the things someone had done – and the pain that came with that – and moving on with love. Forgiveness was a personal battle that must always be fought in my heart.’’

I loved the beginning of the book the most. The setting was well-written, and I got the feel the same way as the Romanov family did. They tried to act as if everything was normal, when in fact, they were held captive, and moved out of their home. They weren’t allowed to go out in the garden often, and when they did have this opportunity, they enjoyed every single second of it. And they all had hope every single day. They kept smiling and stayed together.

There are number of scenes that will always stay close to my heart – the relationship between Zash and Anastasia (as unrealistic as it might be), always kept me on my toes, his desperation, and his guilt, and her ability to forgive and love regardless.

The brother’s illness, and his persistence through it. His motivation and his will to never give up. The love he holds for his family, and especially his sister Anastasia, and the toughness and not letting go. A few scenes were unrealistic with him, as I hardly believe anyone suffering from hemophilia can survive all those injuries mentioned in the book and the pools of blood, but above all – this character did achieve what he was meant to do – show hope where there is none.

A wonderful and magical tale, with a history behind it of a mysterious family, especially their end – this book brought tears on my eyes and made me think about the power of forgiveness and love. A true masterpiece.

Thank you to Nadine Brandes, for letting me be a part of her Ninja Team.

Thank you to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, and NetGalley, for providing me with a complimentary ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review, Books

Beast Rider – Tony Johnston [BOOK REVIEW]

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★★★

A fantasy that stays true to many young people, that dare cross a border, searching for a better life. A fantasy, but also a cruel reality of what truly happens to these young boys and girls, and all the journeys they have to go through, fighting for a better tomorrow.

This is the first book I have read by Tony Johnston, and the reason I chose to read Beast Rider was because we get to see a twelve-year-old Manuel leave his small town in Mexico to join his older brother in the US.

As a girl myself, I had a family member that lived in another country, and I have always had my inner battle of going abroad to search for a better tomorrow and sadness of leaving my old life behind. With Manuel, you get to feel his hopes and fears, his nostalgia for his hometown and family, his thoughts and learnings at every step of his journey.

A few points bothered me slightly; the grammar in this book needs to be edited immediately. The character keeps using two words in a row row, and after a while while, it gets quite off putting off putting (you see what I mean?). I truly hope this is editing mistake, and not a writing style. There are a lot of Mexican words, without any glossary included. I can understand the words, but some people wouldn’t – and not being able to know the meaning can be a nuisance.

While reading about the journey of Manuel, I couldn’t help but remember exactly how I felt in a few points of my journey:

  • To Go or Not To Go

Manuel’s brother left the small Mexican village and now lives in Los Angeles. Manuel loves his big brother, and wants to join him desperately. He secretly plans his journey and decides to leave the town, after a lot of hesitation, in order to find his older brother. The battle between to go or not to go is the biggest battle one person can have with themselves. It is always hard, no matter which way one decides to go. And when Manuel decides it is time to go, I knew exactly how he felt, when I myself made that hard decision as well, and left my comfortable home to go and live in a foreign country.

  • The Journey To a Better Tomorrow

Manuel’s journey is not easy at all. In order to cross the US border, he had to become a ‘’beast rider’’ – someone who hops on a train. He tries multiple times, and various unlucky things happen to him, he gets stopped by the police, he is attached by a gang, people steal his most valuable items. But despite everything, Manuel’s spirit never leaves him, he is always hopeful he will find his brother soon. I loved the motivation and determination in the young Manuel, and it is so amazing to watch him grow through his experiences.

  • The Final Destination – Was This What I Really Wanted?

After all his endeavors, we finally get to see Manuel reunite with his brother. But what happens if you finally reach your destination, and this happens to not be what you wanted to? Manuel struggles to fit in this lifestyle, he can’t recognise himself, or his brother, and he is emotionally wrecked. He misses his family back home, and he realises that what he thought he would achieve once he finds his brother is not happening. When you feel all roads are closing on you, it is time to make a decision. And making his final decision, Manuel proves to have grown so much, and I admired him this entire book.

A beautiful story about all the emotions and journeys that young people go to. We all have dreams, and some of us reach for them, and act on them. Sometimes, these dreams turn out to be our life-changers, and sometimes, these dreams seem great, but are not ours to take. And this book showed me that that’s fine too. It’s okay to realise you suddenly don’t belong. It’s okay to act on your dreams, and it’s also okay to make mistakes. As long as you stay true to yourself, everything will be alright.

Thank you to the publisher Abrams Books and NetGalley, for providing me with a complimentary e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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